from the judging-distracted dept
Anyway, all of that is preamble to a new court ruling in California, found by Orin Kerr, saying that using a mobile phone to check a mapping/GPS program violates the state's law against distracted driving. The driver had argued that the laws are about talking on a phone and/or texting/surfing the internet, but that clearly using a mapping program should be allowed. The court disagreed, even as it acknowledged some of the oddities of what that meant, and said it's really the job of the state lawmakers to figure out what they want to do.
The ruling doesn't totally rule out using a phone's mapping program, but does suggest it needs to be set up in a manner where it is done handsfree, where the driver does not need to hold or touch the phone. Basically, the ruling suggests that it's mostly illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving. The driver noted that this interpretation didn't make much sense, since the legislature had felt the need to add a specific clause to outlaw texting/messaging on phones, but if the overall bill banned any non-hands-free operations, then that would have already been covered. The court disagrees, claiming (oddly) that the added provision also served the purpose of banning non-telephone mobile devices. That may be true, but doesn't explain why that provision also called out messaging services for telephones.
All that said, I generally agree that if you are using mapping software it is probably a hell of a lot safer to somehow have it mounted on your dash, rather than in your hand -- but still this ruling seems to once again highlight the oddities of these particular laws, and how confusing and ineffective they can be.